‘We need £1 billion’ – Amount needed to be pledged by private investors to make Stevenage town centre regeneration a reality is revealed
- Credit: Archant
Private investors will be asked to put their hands in their pockets to the tune of £1 billion before elaborate plans for Stevenage town centre’s planned facelift can become a reality.
People have been complaining for decades that nothing has been done to spruce up the drab 1960s look of the shopfronts and buildings and a recent Comet survey of opinions in the town centre suggests it is still people’s number one bugbear.
But some of the answers finally became a little clearer on Thursday morning when business leaders sat down at a breakfast meeting at the Stevenage Novotel to update them on the plans.
They heard how Stevenage First – a partnership involving key stakeholders, Stevenage Borough Council, Herts County Council, Herts Chamber of Commerce and the Herts Local Enterprise Partnership – is working with potential investors and partners to try to drum up the £1 billion needed to build new housing, shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities to create a ‘vibrant’ new town centre.
Crucially they were told things are already happening, with £15 million secured from the Herts LEP being used to carry out feasibility studies covering the area from Stevenage Leisure Park to Town Centre Gardens and from the start of the Old Town to Six Hills Way – an area which could have a completely revamped railway station at its heart.
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This includes finding out what deals with landowners may be possible to make land available and negotiating deals with existing tenants.
Once these studies have been done, Stevenage First will try to encourage private businesses to come up with the cash to fit out the flats, restaurants and bars to give the town a 21st century feel, as well as attracting more funding from the public sector.
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But Andrew Percival, Stevenage First chairman and a Herts LEP board member, admitted the scheme would “take time” – an answer which, after many years of delays, people won’t want to hear.
He said: “Our vision is to reinvigorate the centre of Stevenage so that it once again represents the aspirations of its people and makes provision for the opportunities they seek.
“We know that this will not happen overnight but we are a strong public/private partnership that has focused responsibility for now driving forward the delivery of our framework.”
Mr Percival added: “We’re committed to the regeneration of Stevenage which will bring much needed investment and ensure that the town realises its full potential as a great place to live, work and do business.
“We will be engaging with residents, employers and commuters every step of the way to ensure that we deliver the right plan for the long term renewal of Stevenage.”
The borough council says the vision is already beginning to take shape with the completion of flats at sites including Swingate, which it hopes will meet the demand for commuters who will fuel investment in a more upmarket town centre.
The meeting was organised by biz4Biz, a business networking group which Adrian Hawkins co-founded.
Mr Hawkins, a fellow Herts LEP board member, said: “We were delighted to host this event which clearly demonstrated that there is real appetite for change. The event gave those attending the opportunity to raise and share their views.”